Beyond the sands of time
On November 2, 2000, Indian army personnel from the Assam Rifles shot 10 civilians in cold blood in Malom, including a National Child Bravery award winner. Protected by the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, no action was taken against the perpetrators. Irom Sharmila Chanu, who was 28 at the time of the Malom massacre, went on an indefinite fast, urging the Centre to repeal AFSPA from Manipur. It has been 16 years since she has been on a hunger strike that started on November 2, 2000. The Manipur police registered a case against Irom under section 309 for “attempt to suicide” and arrested her. Fifteen years later, Irom Sharmila remains under arrest by Manipur police, living her life in the security ward of JLN hospital in Manipur, where she is being force fed through a tube. Irom has often said that the powers that AFSPA has been granted are blatantly unfair. Under AFSPA, the armed forces are given legal immunity from civilian courts and almost unlimited powers to conduct their actions. Suffice to say, the Act has been misused time and again, resulting in the death of many civilians merely on the grounds of suspicion. In spite of the lack of media attention, her protest continues unabated, posing a threat to the credibility of both Manipur government and the Centre. Instead of addressing her concerns, the Manipur government had tried to brazen it out with tacit support of the Centre. However, the state government was stopped in its tracks after the brutal killing of Thangjam Manorama Devi by Assam Rifles in July 2004. The ensuing protests had forced the Manipur government to lift AFSPA from seven Assembly constituencies in Imphal.
In spite of such charges pressed by the State Government and being arrested by the Dehli Police, Irom Sharmila spoke to the media stating that she is still unclear as to how was this conclusion derived as she has never in her wildest dreams wanted to die or commit suicide. All that she fights for is justice and her will to achieve it. It should be noteworthy that fasting itself isn’t an easy task. Cravings for favourite food, incomparable hunger, sweating, weak knees, and a few other medical conditions are what a common man can relate to. More than anything else, Irom Sharmila is true grit personified. Her steely resolve has been on display for the last 16 years. It’s now incumbent on the State government to fulfil her demands and organise a dinner of her choice. Now that will be justice.